Preparing for Fall with Mr. John Demkowicz
Mr. John Demkowicz, Seneca Valley School District Transportation Director
Mr. Demkowicz served as the Operations Supervisor of the Monark Student Transportation Corporation in Gibsonia followed by the Supervisor of Transportation and Custodial Services for the Quaker Valley School District. During his 12 years of Pennsylvania pupil transportation experience, he became well-versed in multiple transportation software suites, developed innovative processes for state reports and implemented strategic communication strategies with the District’s transportation system. He also has experience in coordinating and facilitating emergency responses impacting the safety of District facilities and community roadways. Additional experience includes his role as Director of Operations at Performer’s Academy where he developed new revenue streams and business strategies while also maintaining fiscal and administrative duties. He also successfully recruited exceptional candidates to fill positions during the growth of the company. During his six years at FedEx Ground, Mr. Demkowicz was a Trainer, Swing Driver and Courier. He planned and provided efficient pickup and delivery services while complying with all operational, security and safety policies over a large territory covering multiple states and service areas.
IN THIS EPISODE, WE WILL REVIEW
Voices E61 John Demkowicz
FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)
00:00:02:27 - 00:00:10:05
Introduction: Welcome to Voices, a national award-winning podcast brought to you by the Seneca Valley School District.
00:00:11:13 - 00:00:19:26
Jeff Krakoff: Welcome. This is Jeff Krakoff. Today we're with John Demkowicz, who is director of transportation for Seneca Valley School District. Thanks for joining us today.
00:00:20:09 - 00:00:21:06
John Demkowicz: Thank you so much.
00:00:21:18 - 00:00:42:10
Jeff Krakoff: So why don't we just start with. You know, I think people have this idea that the notion that a bus shows up at the right time, at the right place every day just happens that I'm sure it's never as easy as that. So can you just kind of give me an overview of of how busing transportation works at the district?
00:00:43:09 - 00:00:56:23
John Demkowicz: Absolutely. And it is no small feat, even though the consistency that most people seem to have make it seem like, oh, it's just the bus is coming and it comes every every day at the same time.
00:00:57:02 - 00:00:57:17
Jeff Krakoff: Right.
00:00:58:03 - 00:01:14:00
John Demkowicz: So so we generally we get a roster of students and we start compiling in our routing software trying to create, create these bus routes and get the students to where they're going to go from there.
00:01:14:14 - 00:01:26:16
John Demkowicz: You know, I work with that. So we have many students who are going to many different programs and it's just trying to find the most efficient way to get everybody where they need to be safely
00:01:28:13 - 00:01:54:02
John Demkowicz: utilizing the resources you have. So you have your drivers, your vehicles, your time are your some of your major factors. And so you can't just put everybody on a bus and just have the bus go to all the schools. So it's just the type I like to call a little bit of a choreography and a little bit of a dance to get everybody to their expected locations.
00:01:54:04 - 00:01:54:19
Jeff Krakoff: Yeah.
00:01:55:16 - 00:02:00:21
John Demkowicz: So you're working with time and space, making students get to their location.
00:02:01:03 - 00:02:25:06
John Demkowicz: You're then you start after the routes are created. We work with two contractors, ABC and Valley Lines, and they help gather drivers for for us, the vehicles. They maintain those as well. This is a big maintenance side to those vehicles while to keep them safe and operational. The contractors also help train the drivers so they follow the proper credentials
00:02:26:29 - 00:03:02:21
John Demkowicz: so they can continue to provide a high level of service for us. So once you've passed through all those things, you're the drivers get trained on those routes, they review them, they run them, get a bit more acquainted with how it flows, get some feedback to us so it could potentially tweak some of the routes. If there are some safety concerns or if there is, hey, there potentially may be a better way to route this where we're not potentially hitting as much traffic or some unknown circumstances that come out with actually riding the bus through those areas.
00:03:03:25 - 00:03:36:19
John Demkowicz: And then ultimately on day one, you roll it all out. Everybody's prepped and primed. I mean, you deliver all the information to the families as well. I'm thankful that we have a electronic component where we can get that information to our families very easily through the school portal. All the transportation is available in that area, which we post up there. And yeah, so and then we give all the information to the schools as well so they know who is expected to arrive on what vehicle, near what time.
00:03:37:06 - 00:03:48:24
John Demkowicz: And generally uh everything runs as planned and the streets get a little bit more congested because of our buses running through. And people are taking a little bit more care because they see those vehicles with the red lights and are stopping and
00:03:50:15 - 00:04:25:00
John Demkowicz: heeding to the the the safety of our students who are trying just trying to get to school. So we're making that process work for them and then getting the students home, getting them on the correct buses. Then drivers get them to the correct bus stop, making sure that students, especially our youngest kiddos, are arriving to a parent or guardian that is receiving them. So we're not dropping out young students to just an empty bus stop. So there's always someone there as well. And then also there's an extraordinary extra care that's given to our students with exceptional needs as well.
00:04:25:02 - 00:04:31:21
John Demkowicz: So I guess there's multiple layers and facets to make this happen. And the dance happens every day, but it's always different.
00:04:32:09 - 00:04:49:28
Jeff Krakoff: So lots of moving pieces. I was checking out your bio and it screams to me, this gentleman knows busing in school districts. I know that you worked for a busing transportation company. I know you worked for another district, among other things. Why don't you walk us through your professional background a little bit?
00:04:50:18 - 00:04:57:22
John Demkowicz: Absolutely. And thank you for that compliment there. Been 12 years in Pennsylvania, and pupil transportation
00:04:59:09 - 00:05:27:15
John Demkowicz: coming from the Quaker Valley School District. And also monarchs due to transportation. Quaker Valley. I held the title there, transportation supervisor and also a custodial supervisor as well. And it went hand in hand, really got into the servicing, the needs from a from the district perspective and helping the district grow and the sense of ownership of that transportation system.
00:05:29:10 - 00:05:59:29
John Demkowicz: But then I also have the contractor side as well coming through Monarch, an exceptional company, and helped train me first as a bus driver into through their whole umbrella of multiple different organizations that they run through and got their experiences working up in Pine Richland down in Pittsburgh public and then also down in Quaker Valley. So getting multiple different diverse levels of experience through different significantly different areas.
00:06:00:21 - 00:06:23:18
John Demkowicz: That's helped lead me to this position here that helps balance and understand both a district's needs and obligations and and just just the services that we need to be able to provide for our families and students, but also balance the operations and contractors relations and needs that they have as well.
00:06:24:00 - 00:06:36:20
Jeff Krakoff: Got it. So you joined the district here this year in 2022. What are some of your goals and the overall transportation goals for the district as we move forward?
00:06:37:26 - 00:07:14:26
John Demkowicz: Definitely. I want to start off in saying here that we have a well-established transportation system, Mr. Pearson has, and the transportation team has created something that really does work. Our contractors do provide extra services and go in well into helping us achieve all this. So it's definitely a great thing to step into and the partnerships are very strong and it works very well. But I like to continue to provide a safe and reliable way to and from school for our students and families.
00:07:15:18 - 00:07:29:01
John Demkowicz: Ultimately, while mitigating or dynamic complications that are intensifying with labor shortages, that it's really affecting everything, including the transportation sector.
00:07:29:22 - 00:07:37:02
Jeff Krakoff: So so what are you finding? I take it there is a shortage of of qualified bus drivers out there that you're dealing with?
00:07:38:03 - 00:08:15:06
John Demkowicz: Absolutely. And I can't say it's just been the last few years or pandemic related. This has been going ongoing, but pandemic has definitely increased intensified this year. So we're trying to find creative solutions utilizing the resources we currently have. So we're in the evaluation realignment planning process with our routes right now and reconstructing bus routes that service CVE, Haine, Rowan and Ehrman Crest just because of how our dynamics change within our demographic study.
00:08:15:08 - 00:08:45:27
John Demkowicz: And then also just the location of the physical schools going from Evans City to Ehrman Crest. So we're trying to find solutions to utilize our vehicles most efficiently and effectively. So potentially, we may need to move some physical bus stop locations to realign and utilize the bus and its say. I is constructed to be able to stop traffic and create that layer of safety around there.
00:08:45:29 - 00:09:14:03
John Demkowicz: So but potentially students may have to walk a little bit farther to a bus stop, but we're still providing services near their home just to just get students to where they need to fill the buses up to the highest capacity. I mean, yeah, utilizing the capacity, the vehicle as much as we can and utilizing the limited amount of time that it really realistically has to get from home to to school and then school to home.
00:09:14:15 - 00:09:40:03
Jeff Krakoff: Okay. So I think we started this conversation of all the moving pieces and layers and pretty much almost all the time things work out the way they're supposed to. Let's talk about what if they don't? If there's a need for an alternative stop or there's some other kind of issue comes up, can you tell students and parents what to look for, where to look for it, how they might be notified?
00:09:41:02 - 00:10:08:20
John Demkowicz: Absolutely. Generally, alternative stops are for families who are setting up something that's needed for them that that's consistent. But it may not be five days a week at home. So maybe daycare Tuesday and Thursday and then traveling home Monday, Wednesday or Friday. And it has a re-, a cycle that repeats every week. So it's consistent. We're able to provide services like them
00:10:10:20 - 00:10:39:28
John Demkowicz: and then to get a service like that, you would need to log into the svsd.net web page or the Seneca Valley web page and look at the transportation side and look for your alternate stops or stop assignments. There's a page there and you fill out a form. It comes to us. That form needs to be received in the transportation office before Friday, August 5,
00:10:41:21 - 00:11:18:12
John Demkowicz: and then we'll be able to take all those requests and have them implemented by the first day of school. If you don't receive it by the fifth, we pause so we can make sure that we do provide the services that are requested at that point. And then after September 13, we'll begin processing those alternate stops again just to get the system running smoothly. So if there is a need, a change in that window, parents would have to provide services for them at that particular point. So I urge you to please get your alternate stops in before August 5, and we could get that started for you for beginning of school.
00:11:18:22 - 00:11:29:04
Jeff Krakoff: Got it. What about you mentioned the website. Is there other information that we all need to know about that's there on the portal that people can check for?
00:11:30:28 - 00:12:06:15
John Demkowicz: If you go to the the website hit their departments and then transportation, that's going to take you to the the the transportation site. So our transportation request is going to get you the information of how you get your alternate stops. And then there's also attendance zones. And if you're moving within the district, a frequency of questions and how to locate lost items. School bus is an extension of the school itself. So there's conduct rules and safety criteria that are listed there as well.
00:12:07:04 - 00:12:07:19
Jeff Krakoff: Okay.
00:12:07:21 - 00:12:14:24
John Demkowicz: Wealth of information that everyone can find and see to to help keep us all safe and get everybody where they need to be.
00:12:15:06 - 00:12:35:01
Jeff Krakoff: All right. Well, I'm sure this is a busy time, even though school is currently out doing a lot of planning for the first day of school. So I really do appreciate you taking the time. This was John Demkowicz, director of transportation at Seneca Valley School District. Thanks again. And is there anything else you want to add before I let you go?
00:12:35:06 - 00:13:07:09
John Demkowicz: Absolutely. I do want to say that the Seneca Valley School District is seeking additional school bus and van drivers and aides. So if you or someone you know may be qualified, entrusted or has the ability to serve our community, please reach out to us and we can help guide you to our local garages. I mean, there's flexible schedules and flexible commitments that can be considered, and they will for sure train everybody. If you're able to drive a vehicle, you can drive a school bus. It is we can you are trainable.
00:13:07:23 - 00:13:12:01
John Demkowicz: That seems to be large and big. It is still attainable by anybody who drives a vehicle.
00:13:12:12 - 00:13:27:08
Jeff Krakoff: You mentioned you were a driver. How big of an adaptation is that for somebody that might have only driven something as large as a car or a minivan or something like that? Is that a pretty easy thing to to learn?
00:13:27:18 - 00:14:00:21
John Demkowicz: I believe anybody can be taught anything with time and some patience and some practice. I mean, anybody could be a safe school bus driver. Obviously, you'd need proper qualifications and backgrounds to be able to do that. But I mean, that vetting process will get you in and we'll definitely be able to help solidify and keep our transportation system consistent and also be able to help take part in some of our athletics as well to help them succeed in their adventures to other competitions in far off places.
00:14:01:04 - 00:14:08:24
Jeff Krakoff: All right. Well, that's awesome. Thanks for adding that in. So again, that's John Demkowicz, director of transportation. You have a wonderful day.
00:14:09:04 - 00:14:10:09
John Demkowicz: Thank you very much. Take care.
00:14:10:16 - 00:14:11:11
Jeff Krakoff: All right. Take care.